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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2664. ENGLAND, National debt.—
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2664. ENGLAND, National debt.—

George the Third and his minister, Pitt, and
successors, have spent the fee simple of the
kingdom under pretense of governing it;
their sinecures, salaries, pensions, priests,
prelates, princes and eternal wars, have mortgaged
to its full value the last foot of their
soil. They are reduced to the dilemma of a
bankrupt spendthrift, who, having run
through his whole fortune, now asks himself
what he is to do? It is in vain he dismisses
his coaches and horses, his grooms, liveries,
cooks and butlers. This done, he still finds
he has nothing to eat. What was his property
is now that of his creditors; if still in
his hands, it is only as their trustee. To
them it belongs, and to them every farthing
of its profits must go. The reformation of
extravagance comes too late. All is gone.
Nothing is left for retrenchment or frugality
to go on. The debts of England, however, being due from the whole nation to one-half
of it, being as much the debt of the creditor
as debtor, if it could be referred to a court of
equity, principles might be devised to adjust
it peaceably. Dismiss their parasites, ship
off their paupers to this country, let the land-holders
give half their lands to the money
lenders, and these last relinquish one-half of
their debts. They would still have a fertile
island, a sound and effective population to
labor it, and would hold that station among
political powers, to which their natural resources
and faculties entitle them. They
would no longer indeed, be the lords of the
ocean and paymasters of all the princes of the
earth. They would no longer enjoy the luxuries
of pirating and plundering everything
by sea, and of bribing and corrupting everything
by land; but they might enjoy the more
safe and lasting luxury of living on terms of
equality, justice and good neighborhood with
all nations. As it is, their first efforts will
probably be to quiet things awhile by the
palliatives of reformation; to nibble a little
at pensions and sinecures, to bite off a bit
here, and a bit there to amuse the people;
and to keep the government agoing by encroachments
on the interest of the public debt,
one per cent. of which, for instance, withheld,
gives them a spare revenue of ten millions for
present subsistence, and spunges, in fact, two
hundred millions of the debt. This remedy
they may endeavor to administer in broken
doses of a small pill at a time. The first May
not occasion more than a strong nausea in the
money lenders; but the second will probably
produce a revulsion of the stomach, barbarisms.
and spasmodic calls for fair settlement
and compromise. But it is not in the char


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acter of man to come to any peaceable compromise
of such a state of things. The
princes and priests will hold to the flesh-pots,
the empty bellies will seize on them, and
these being the multitude, the issue is obvious,
civil war, massacre, exile as in France,
until the stage is cleared of everything but
the multitude, and the lands get into their
hands by such processes as the revolution will
engender. [169]
To John Adams. Washington ed. vii, 43.
(M. 1816)


The debt of Great Britain amounted at this period
to eight hundred millions of pounds sterling. “It
was in truth,” says Macaulay (Hist. of England,
c. 19) “a gigantic, a fabulous, debt; and we can
hardly wonder that the cry of despair should have
been louder than ever.”—Editor.